Political Musings October 3, 2014: Is Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan a terrorist, criminal or victim?

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Is Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan a terrorist, criminal or victim?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed the first case of Ebola on United States soil on Tuesday evening, Sept. 30, 2014, slowly the picture is getting clearer about the circumstance around the case and the dangers it poses…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 3, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Murder of Steven Sotloff

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Gives a Statement on the Murder of Steven Sotloff

Source: WH, 9-3-14

Finally, I want to say that today the prayers of the American people are with the family of a devoted and courageous journalist, Steven Sotloff. Overnight, our government determined that, tragically, Steven was taken from us in a horrific act of violence. We cannot even begin to imagine the agony that everyone who loved Steven is feeling right now, especially his mother, his father and his younger sister. So today, our country grieves with them.

Like Jim Foley before him, Steve’s life stood in sharp contrast to those who have murdered him so brutally. They make the absurd claim that they kill in the name of religion, but it was Steven, his friends say, who deeply loved the Islamic world. His killers try to claim that they defend the oppressed, but it was Steven who traveled across the Middle East, risking his life to tell the story of Muslim men and women demanding justice and dignity.

Whatever these murderers think they’ll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed. They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists. And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.

Political Musings August 22, 2014: Holder’s visit to Ferguson calms community after Michael Brown shooting, unrest

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Holder’s visit to Ferguson calms community after Michael Brown shooting, unrest

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Attorney General Eric Holder was the first member of President Barack Obama’s administration to visit Ferguson, Missouri since unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown’s shooting death by a white police officer, Darren Wilson on Aug. 9…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 20, 2014: Attorney General Eric Holder’s Remarks in Ferguson, Missouri about Michael Brown Shooting and Unrest — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Excerpts of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Remarks at a Community College

Souce: DOJ, 8-20-14

Florissant Valley Community College ~ Wednesday, August 20, 2014

“The eyes of the nation and the world are watching Ferguson right now. The world is watching because the issues raised by the shooting of Michael Brown predate this incident. This is something that has a history to it and the history simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson.

“We have seen a great deal of progress over the years. But we also see problems and these problems stem from mistrust and mutual suspicion.

“I just had the opportunity to sit down with some wonderful young people and to hear them talk about the mistrust they have at a young age. These are young people and already they are concerned about potential interactions they might have with the police.

“I understand that mistrust. I am the Attorney General of the United States. But I am also a black man. I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over…“Let me search your car”…Go through the trunk of my car, look under the seats and all this kind of stuff. I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.

“I think about my time in Georgetown – a nice neighborhood of Washington – and I am running to a picture movie at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin. Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells “Where you going? Hold it!” I say “Woah, I’m going to a movie.” Now my cousin started mouthing off. I’m like, “This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.” I’m angry and upset. We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie. At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn’t a kid. I was a federal prosecutor. I worked at the United States Department of Justice. So I’ve confronted this myself.”

“We are starting here a good dialogue. But the reality is the dialogue is not enough. We need concrete action to change things in this country. That’s what I have been trying to do. That’s what the President has been trying to do. We have a very active Civil Rights Division. I am proud of what these men and women have done. As they write about the legacy of the Obama administration, a lot of it is going to be about what the Civil Rights Division has done.

“So this interaction must occur. This dialogue is important. But it can’t simply be that we have a conversation that begins based on what happens on August 9, and ends sometime in December, and nothing happens. As I was just telling these young people, change is possible. The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the Attorney General of the United States. This country is capable of change. But change doesn’t happen by itself.

“So let’s start here. Let’s do the work today.”

Political Musings May 18, 2014: Obama to nominate rising star San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as HUD Secretary

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According to news reports on Saturday, May 17, 2014 President Barack Obama plans to nominate Democratic Party rising star and three term San Antonio, Texas mayor Julian Castro, 39 to be the new Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Castro’…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 22, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Mudslide Devastation in Washington State

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Mudslide Devastation in Washington State

Source: WH, 4-22-14

Oso Firehouse
Oso, Washington

4:13 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  I just had a chance to tour some of the damage from last month’s mudslide.  And, most importantly, I had a chance to spend some time with the families whose loved ones have been lost.  I also had a chance to thank some of the amazing first responders, the firefighters, police officers, search and rescue crews, and members of the Washington National Guard who have been working around the clock to help this community recover from this devastating incident.

Governor Inslee, Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell, Congresswoman DelBene, Congressman Larsen, and the rest of the elected officials who are here, they’ve been relentless in making sure that Oso had the resources that it needs.  And from the day of the tragedy, I’ve instructed my team to make sure that they get what they need to make sure that the search and rescue mission is going forward the way it should.

A FEMA Incident Management Assistance Team was on the ground immediately after the mudslide, and a search and rescue team was deployed to help locate and recover victims.  We immediately approved an emergency declaration to provide additional resources to state and local responders.  And I followed that by approving a major disaster declaration to help residents and business owners rebuild, and to help state and local and tribal governments with emergency work.

Today, that work continues.  There are still families who are searching for loved ones.  There are families who have lost everything, and it’s going to be a difficult road ahead for them.  And that’s why I wanted to come here — just to let you know that the country is thinking about all of you and have been throughout this tragedy.

We’re not going anywhere.  We’ll be here as long as it takes.  Because while very few Americans have ever heard of Oso before the disaster struck, we’ve all been inspired by the incredible way that the community has come together and shown the love and support that they have for each other in ways large and small.

Over the past month, we’ve seen neighbors and complete strangers donate everything from chainsaws to rain jackets to help with the recovery effort.  We’ve seen families cook meals for rescue workers.  We’ve seen volunteers pull 15-hour days, searching through mud up to 70 feet deep.  One resident said, “We’re Oso.  We just do it.”  That’s what this community is all about.  And I think the outstanding work of Sheriff Willy Harper here helping to coordinate all of this — I was saying, he’s a pretty young sheriff, but he has shouldered this burden in an incredible way.  And we’re very, very proud of him, as we are of all the local responders.

This is family.  And these are folks who love this land, and it’s easy to see why — because it’s gorgeous.  And there’s a way of life here that’s represented.  And to see the strength in adversity of this community I think should inspire all of us, because this is also what America is all about.

When times get tough, we look out for each other.  We get each other’s backs.  And we recover and we build, and we come back stronger.  And we’re always reminded that we’re greater together.  That’s how we’ll support each other every step of the way.

I have to say that the families that I met with showed incredible strength and grace through unimaginable pain and difficulty.  Uniformly, though, they all wanted to say thank you to the first responders.  They were deeply appreciative of the efforts that everybody has made.  And I know that many of the first responders have heard that directly, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat that we’re very appreciative of what you’ve done.

And I also want to say that some terrific lessons were learned in the midst of very hard times during this process, because almost uniquely, we had not just coordination between state, local and federal officials, but also coordination between volunteers and those officials.  And I know that it required some improvisation and some kinks getting worked out, but it was important for the family members themselves and the community themselves to be hands-on and participate in this process — particularly a community like this one where folks are hearty and know how to do things, and take great pride in being self-reliant.  It was important that they weren’t just bystanders in this process, they were involved every step of the way.

One last point I’ll make.  I’ve received a number of letters from residents — either Darrington, or Arlington, or Oso itself — over the last several weeks, and one in particular struck me.  It was from a firefighter who I may have met today; he didn’t identify himself.  But he pointed out how those who were operating the heavy machinery during this whole process did so with an incredible care and delicacy because they understood that this wasn’t an ordinary job, this wasn’t just a matter of moving earth; that this was a matter of making sure that we were honoring and respecting the lives that had been impacted.

And two things were of note in that letter:  Number one, that this firefighter pointed out properly the incredible work that’s been done under very tough circumstances.  Number two, he was pointing out what others were doing, not what he was doing.  And to see a community come together like this and not be interested in who’s getting credit, but just making sure that the job gets done, that says a lot about the character of this place.

And so we’re very, very proud of all of you.  Michelle and I grieve with you.  The whole country is thinking about you.  And we’re going to make sure that we’re there every step of the way as we go through the grieving, the mourning, the recovery.  We’re going to be strong right alongside you.

Thank you very much.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
4:21 P.M. PDT

Political Musings March 16, 2014: Scott Brown decides on New Hampshire Senate run announces exploratory committee

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Scott Brown decides on New Hampshire Senate run announces exploratory committee

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After months of speculation former Republican senator from Massachusetts Scott Brown has decided to run for the Senate from New Hampshire, where he will try to unseat one-term Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen. At the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in…READ MORE

Political Musings March 6, 2014: Selling minimum wage raise, Obama pushes Congress with governors in Connecticut

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Part of a campaign push towards the midterm elections in November President Barack Obama on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 urged Congress to raise the minimum raise alongside governors from New England states at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain…READ MORE

Political Musings February 25, 2014: Obama, Governors have turbulent dinner and meeting over 2016, economy, pipeline

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Obama, Governors have turbulent dinner and meeting over 2016, economy, pipeline

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama spent his weekend with the National Governors Association (NGA) at what were suppose to be bipartisan events, a dinner hosted at the White House on Sunday evening, Feb. 23, 2014 and a White House meeting on Monday…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 24, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at National Governors’ Association White House Meeting

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Vice President at NGA Meeting

Source: WH, 2-24-14

State Dining Room

11:15 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thanks for making the Cabinet stand up for me.  (Laughter.)  I appreciate it.

It’s great to see you all.  And I don’t know about you all, I had a great time last night and got a chance to actually do what we should be doing more of — talking without thinking about politics and figuring how we can solve problems.

You’ve observed by now the reason the President and I like doing this every year is it’s nice dealing with people who know they got to get a job done, and they get a job done.  And I’ve gotten a chance to work directly with an awful lot of you in the days of the Recovery Act, and even when we were working on the gun violence; rebuilding from that super storm Sandy, which hit my state as well, and tornadoes and floods in a number of your states.

But it never ceases to amaze me how you all mobilize.  You just mobilize.  When crises hit your states, you mobilize and you rebuild.  And you rebuild your infrastructure not to the standards that existed before, but to 21st century standards.  You balance your budgets, you save neighborhoods, and you bring back jobs to your communities.

And the other thing I pick up — and I may be wrong.  I’m always labeled as the White House optimist, like I’m the kid who fell off the turnip truck yesterday, but I am the youngest here — (laughter) — and new.  But it always amazes me your sense of optimism.  You’re the one group of folks you go to with all the problems you have that you’re optimistic.  You’re optimistic about it being able to be done, getting things done.  That is not always the mood up in the place where I spent a large portion of my career.

And last night I got to speak to a bunch of you, particularly about the job skills initiative the President asked me to lead, and I had a chance to speak with some of you specifically, and I’m going to ask to — I’m going to get a chance to see more of you this afternoon.  But this is more than just — at least from the President’s perspective and mine — more than just a job skills initiative.  It’s about literally opening the aperture to the middle class.  The middle class has actually shrunk.

And we always have these debates with our economists — is the middle class $49,820 or $52,000.  The middle class to me, and I think to most of you, it’s really a state of mind.  It’s about being able to own your home and not have to rent it.  It’s about being able to send your kid to a park where you know you can send them out, and they’ll come home safely.  It’s about being able to send them to school, that if they do well in the school, they’re going to be able to get to something beyond high school if they want to do that.  And you’re going to be able to pay for it.  And in the meantime, you may be able to take care of your mom and dad who are in tough shape and hope that your kids never have to take care of you.  That’s the middle class.

And before the Great Recession, it was already beginning to shrink.  So together, we got to open — Mary, you and I have talked about this — about opening the aperture here for access to the middle class.  But we’ll be speaking a lot more about that in the next several months.  A couple of you invited me to come out your way, including some of my Republican friends.  And I’m going to be working with all of you.

But today I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for what you always do.  You come to town; you come to town with answers.  You come to town with suggestions.  You come to town to get things done.  And believe me, we need that and the American people are looking for it.

And I want to welcome you back to the White House, and introduce you now to my friend, your President, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you so much.

Welcome to the White House.  I know that you’ve already been doing a lot of work, and I’m glad to be able to come here and engage in a dialogue with all of you.  I want to thank Mary and John for their leadership at the NGA.  I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, who is very excited I think about the jobs initiative, and is going to be — the job training initiative, and I think is going to be doing a great job on that.

Michelle and I had a wonderful time hosting you guys last night, and I hope all the spouses enjoyed it.  And I know Alex enjoyed it.  (Laughter.)  One good thing about living here is that you can make all the noise you want and nobody is going to complain.  (Laughter.)  And I enjoyed watching some of you with your eyes on higher office size up the drapes — (laughter) –and each other.

We don’t have a lot of time today, so I want to be very brief, go straight to Q&A and discussion.  We’re at a moment when our economy is growing; our businesses have now created over 8.5 million new jobs over the past four years.  But, as I’ve said several times, the trends that have battered the middle class for a couple of decades now are still there and still have to be addressed.  Those at the top are doing very well.  Ordinary families still feeling squeezed.  Too many Americans are working harder than ever, and just barely getting by.

And reversing these trends are going to require us to work together around what I’m calling an opportunity agenda based on four things.  Number one, more good jobs that pay good wages.  Number two, training more Americans to be able to take the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs that are created.  Number three, guaranteeing access to a world-class education for every American child all across our 50 states and our territories.  And making sure that hard work pays off — with wages that you can live on, savings that you can retire on, health insurance that you can count on.

And all of this is going to take some action.  So far, just in the past few weeks, I’ve acted to lift the wages of workers who work for federal contractors to pay their — make sure their employees are getting paid at least $10.10 an hour.  We’ve ordered an across-the-board reform of our job training programs, much of it aligned with some of the work that Mary has done during her tenure as head of the NGA.  We directed our Treasury to create a new way for Americans to start saving for retirement.  We’ve been able to rally America’s business leaders to help more of the long-term unemployed find work, and to help us make sure that all of our kids have access to high-speed Internet and high-tech learning tools in the classroom.

The point is, this has to be a year of action.  And I’m eager to work with Congress wherever I can.  My hope is, is that despite this being an election year, that there will be occasions where both parties determine that it makes sense to actually get some things done in this town.  But wherever I can work on my own to expand opportunity for more Americans, I’m going to do that.  And I am absolutely convinced that the time is right to partner with the states and governors all across the country on these agendas, because I know that you guys are doing some terrific work in your own states.

There may not be much of an appetite in Congress for doing big jobs bills, but we can still grow SelectUSA.  Secretary Pritzker’s team has put together a terrific formula where we’re attracting investors from all around the world to see America as an outstanding place to invest.  And I mentioned this at the State of the Union:  For the first time last year, what we’re seeing is, is that world investors now see America as the number-one place to do business rather than China.  And it’s a sign of a lot of things converging, both on the energy front, worker productivity, our innovation, our research, ease of doing business.  And a lot of that work is as a consequence of steps we’ve taken not just at the federal level, but also at the state level.  So we’ve got to take advantage of that.

Secretary Pritzker has been helping a Belgian company create jobs in Stillwater, Oklahoma; helping an Austrian company create jobs in Cartersville, Georgia.  So we can do more of this, and we really want to engage with you over the next several months to find ways that we can help market America and your states to businesses all around the world and bring jobs back.

Since I called on Congress to raise the minimum wage last year, six states have gone ahead and done it on their own.  Last month, I asked more business leaders to raise their workers’ wages.  Last week, GAP said it would lift wages for about 65,000 of its employees.  Several of you are trying to boost wages for your workers.  I’m going to do everything I can to support those efforts.

While Congress decides what it’s going to do on making high-quality pre-K available to more kids, there is bipartisan work being done among the folks in this room.  You’ve got governors like Robert Bentley and Jack Markell, Susana Martinez, Deval Patrick — all expanding funding or dedicating funds to make that happen in their states.  And we want to partner with you.  This year, I’ll pull together a coalition of philanthropists, elected officials and business leaders, all of whom are excited and interested in working with you to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need.

And while Congress talks about repealing the Affordable Care Act or doing this or doing that to it, places like California and Kentucky are going gangbusters and enrolling more Americans in quality, affordable health care plans.  You’ve got Republican governors here — I won’t name them in front of the press, because I don’t want to get you all in trouble — who have chosen to cover more people through new options under Medicaid.  And as a result, millions of people are going to get help.

States that don’t expand Medicaid are going to be leaving up to 5.4 million Americans uninsured.  And that doesn’t have to happen.  Work with us to get this done.  We can provide a lot of flexibility.  Folks like Mike Beebe in Arkansas have done some terrific work designing programs that are right for their states but also provide access to care for people who need it.  And I think Kathleen Sebelius, a former governor herself, has shown herself willing to work with all of you to try to find ways to get that done.

On the West Coast, you’ve got Governors Brown, Inslee, Kitzhaber who are working together to combat the effects of climate change on their states.  We’ve set up a taskforce of governors and mayors and tribal leaders to help communities prepare for what we anticipate are going to be intensifying impacts of climate change.  And we’re setting up climate hubs in seven states across the country to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing environment.

In the budget that I’ll send to Congress next week, I’m going to propose fundamentally reforming the way federal governments fund wildfire suppression and prevention to make it more stable and secure, and this is an idea that’s supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

And finally, I want to thank those of you who have worked with Michelle and Jill Biden on their Joining Forces initiative to support our military families.  At your meeting here two years ago, they asked for your help to make it easier for servicemembers and their spouses to carry licenses for professions like teaching or nursing from state to state, rather than have to get a new one every time they were reassigned.  At the time, only 12 states had acted to make this easier for spouses; only nine had acted to make it easier for servicemembers.  Today, 42 states have passed legislation to help spouses; 45 states have made it easier for servicemembers.  We’ve got a few states remaining.  Let’s get it done for everybody, because it’s the right thing to do for those men and women who are working every day to make sure we stay free and secure.

The point is, even when there is little appetite in Congress to move on some of these priorities, at the state level you guys are governed by practical considerations.  You want to do right by your people and you see how good policy impacts your citizens, and you see how bad policy impacts your citizens, and that means that there’s less room for posturing and politics, and more room for getting stuff done.

We want to work with you.  And I’m committed to making sure that every single member of my Cabinet, every single person in the White House, every single member of my team will be responsive to you.  We won’t agree on every single issue every single time, but I guarantee you that we will work as hard as we can to make sure that you succeed — because when you succeed, the people in your states succeed and America succeeds, and that’s our goal.

So thank you very much, and I look forward to having a great discussion.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
11:27 A.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency February 23, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the National Governors Association Dinner

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the National Governors Association Dinner

Source: WH, 2-23-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks to National Governors Association
February 23, 2014 8:42 PM

President Obama Speaks to National Governors Association

State Dining Room

7:11 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Have a seat.  Well, welcome to the White House.  Everybody looks fabulous.  I am truly honored to be one of Michelle Obama’s guests tonight here at dinner.  (Laughter.)  I want to thank all the governors and their better halves for being here tonight, especially your chair, Mary Fallin, and your vice chair, John Hickenlooper.  (Applause.)

Tonight, we want to make sure that all of you make yourselves at home, to which I’m sure some of you are thinking that’s been the plan all along.  (Laughter.)  But keep in mind what a wise man once wrote:  “I am more than contented to be governor and shall not care if I never hold another office.”  Of course, that was Teddy Roosevelt.  (Laughter.)  So I guess plans change.

I look forward to working with each of you not just in our meetings tomorrow, but throughout this year, what I hope to be a year of action.  Our partnership on behalf of the American people, on issues ranging from education to health care to climate change runs deep, deeper than what usually hits the front page.

Being here tonight, I’m thinking about moments that I’ve spent with so many of you during the course of the year — with Governor Patrick in a hospital in Boston, seeing the survivors of the Boston bombing, seeing them fight through their wounds, determined to return to their families, but also realizing that a lot of lives were saved because of the preparations that federal and state and local officials had carried out beforehand; with Governor Fallin at a firehouse in Moore, thanking first responders who risked their lives to save others after a devastating tornado, but once again seeing the kind of state-federal cooperation that’s so vital in these kinds of circumstances; spending time with Governor O’Malley at the Naval Academy graduation last spring and looking out over some of our newest sailors and Marines as they join the greatest military in the world, and reminding ourselves that on national security issues, the contributions of the National Guard obviously are extraordinary and all of you work so closely with them.

So if there’s one thing in common in the moments like these, it’s that our cooperation is vital to make sure that we’re doing right by the American people.  And what’s common also is the incredible resilience and the goodness and the strength of the American people that we’re so privileged to serve.  And that resilience has carried us from the depths of the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes to what I am convinced can be a breakthrough year for America and the American people.

That of course will require that we collectively take action on what matters to them — jobs and opportunity.  And when we’ve got a Congress that sometimes seems to have a difficult time acting, I want to make sure that I have the opportunity to partner with each of you in any way that I can to help more Americans work and study and strive, and make sure that they see their efforts and their faith in this country rewarded.

I know we’ll talk more about areas where we can work together tomorrow.  So tonight, I simply would like to propose a toast to the families that support us, to the citizens that inspire us and to this exceptional country that has given us so much.  Cheers.

END
7:16 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 22, 2014: Obama continues push to raise minimum wage in weekly address, governors meeting

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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For the second week in a row President Barack Obama dedicated his weekly address released Saturday morning, Feb. 22, 2014 to raising the minimum wage, and urging Congress to pass legislation to that would lift the wage up from $7…Continue

Full Text Obama Presidency February 14, 2014: President Barack Obama Remarks Announcing California Drought Aid

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the California Drought

Source: WH, 2-14-14

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President Obama Speaks on Response to the California Drought
February 14, 2014 6:00 PM

President Obama Speaks on Response to the California Drought

Joe Del Bosque’s Field Los Banos, California

4:55 P.M. PST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to thank Joe and Maria Del Bosque and their beautiful daughters for showing Governor Brown and me around their farm.

Joe has got an incredible story.  The son of a migrant farmworker, farm work is how he put himself through college.  He’s been a farmer for most of his life.  He started by going around to other folks’ land and saying, I’ll grow some cantaloupes for you as long as you pay me for what we produce, and over the years was able to develop this amazing business and not only start growing cantaloupes, but almonds and cherries and all kinds of other good stuff.

“There are three things that make farming work in California,” according to Joe, “soil, water, and people.”  And in the little free time they have, Joe and Maria work to improve the health and safety of farm workers.  There are a lot of people who are dependent on him year-round, and a lot of people who work seasonally with Joe and Maria, and their livelihoods depend on the functioning of these farms.

But today, we’re here to talk about the resource that’s keeping more and more California’s farmers and families up at night, and that is water — or the lack of it.

As anybody in this state could tell you, California’s living through some of its driest years in a century.  Right now, almost 99 percent of California is drier than normal — and the winter snowpack that provides much of your water far into the summer is much smaller than normal.  And we could see that as we were flying in — Jim and Barbara and Dianne and I were flying over the mountain ranges and could see, even though there was a little bit of snow that just came in the last couple of days, that it’s nothing like it is normally.

While drought in regions outside the West is expected to be less severe than in other years, California is our biggest economy, California is our biggest agricultural producer, so what happens here matters to every working American, right down to the cost of food that you put on your table.

And that’s why, last month, Governor Brown declared a state of emergency, directing state officials to prepare for drought conditions.  And together, our administrations launched a coordinated response.  Secretary Vilsack, who is here today, declared 27 counties as primary natural disaster areas, making farmers and ranchers eligible for emergency loans.  And over the past two weeks, his team at USDA and Mike Connor’s team at the Interior Department have released new funds for conservation and irrigation; announced investments to upgrade water infrastructure; and partnered with California to stretch the water supply as much as possible.

Today, I’m want to announce new actions that we can take together to help these hardworking folks.

First, we’re accelerating $100 million of funds from the farm bill that I signed last week to help ranchers.  For example, if their fields have dried up, this is going to help them feed their livestock.

Second, last week, we announced $20 million to help hard-hit communities, and today, we’re announcing up to $15 million more for California and other states that are in extreme drought.

Third, I’m directing the Interior Department to use its existing authorities, where appropriate, to give water contractors flexibility to meet their obligations.

And fourth, I’m directing all federal facilities in California to take immediate steps to curb their water use, including a moratorium on water usage for new, non-essential landscaping projects.

A bipartisan bill written by your outstanding Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as your own outstanding Representative and almond farmer, Jim Costa, includes similar ideas.  And I hope that Congress considers the legislation that they have crafted soon, work through some of the concerns that have been expressed — let’s make sure that we’re getting some short-term relief to folks, but also long-term certainty for people who are going to be harmed by this drought.

These actions will help, but they’re just the first step.  We have to be clear:  A changing climate means that weather-related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms, floods are potentially going to be costlier and they’re going to be harsher. Droughts have obviously been a part of life out here in the West since before any of us were around and water politics in California have always been complicated, but scientific evidence shows that a changing climate is going to make them more intense.

Scientists will debate whether a particular storm or drought reflects patterns of climate change.  But one thing that is undeniable is that changing temperatures influence drought in at least three ways:  Number one, more rain falls in extreme downpours — so more water is lost to runoff than captured for use.  Number two, more precipitation in the mountains falls as rain rather than snow — so rivers run dry earlier in the year.  Number three, soil and reservoirs lose more water to evaporation year-round.

What does all this mean?  Unless and until we do more to combat carbon pollution that causes climate change, this trend is going to get worse.  And the hard truth is even if we do take action on climate change, carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades.  The planet is slowly going to keep warming for a long time to come.  So we’re going to have to stop looking at these disasters as something to wait for; we’ve got to start looking at these disasters as something to prepare for, to anticipate, to start building new infrastructure, to start having new plans, to recalibrate the baseline that we’re working off of.

And everybody, from farmers to industry to residential areas, to the north of California and the south of California and everyplace in between, as well as the entire Western region are going to have to start rethinking how we approach water for decades to come.

And as I said when I was meeting with the town hall group, we can’t think of this simply as a zero-sum game.  It can’t just be a matter of there’s going to be less and less water so I’m going to grab more and more of a shrinking share of water.  Instead what we have to do is all come together and figure out how we all are going to make sure that agricultural needs, urban needs, industrial needs, environmental and conservation concerns are all addressed.  And that’s going to be a big project, but it’s one that I’m confident we can do.

Part of the Climate Action Plan that I put forward last summer is designed to protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the effects of climate change that we’re just not going to be able to avoid.  So, last week, for example, the USDA announced seven new “climate hubs” to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing climate — one of which will be at UC Davis, focused on resilience for California’s specialty crops.

The budget that I sent to Congress — the budget that I send to Congress next month will include $1 billion in new funding for new technologies to help communities prepare for a changing climate, set up incentives to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure.  And finally, my administration will work with tech innovators and launch new challenges under our Climate Data Initiative, focused initially on rising sea levels and their impact on the coasts, but ultimately focused on how all these changes in weather patterns are going to have an impact up and down the United States — not just on the coast but inland as well — and how do we start preparing for that.  And that has to be work that we do together.  This cannot be a partisan endeavor.

One of the great things about that town hall that I just came out of — not everybody agreed on anything — (laughter) — except people did agree that we can’t keep on doing business as usual.  That’s what people did understand — that there has to be a sense of urgency about this.

And issues like the federal government helping states to build infrastructure to adapt and ensure economic development and that families and workers are able to prosper — there’s nothing new about that.  We just saw a photograph of President Kennedy and current Governor Brown’s dad building some of the aquifers that have been so important to the economy of this state for decades.  If we were able to do that then, we should be able to do it now.  It’s just a matter of us making sure that we’re not putting politics ahead of trying to get things working.

Our work with Governor Brown and his administration is going to continue.  Californians have all had to come together and already make sacrifices, big and small, to help your neighbors and your state get through this.  The good news is California is always on the cutting-edge.  Already you use water far more efficiently than you did decades ago.  You do it smarter.  Joe was explaining just how this drip irrigation that you see in this region has made many of these farms much more efficient when it comes to water utilization.  And so we know that we can innovate and meet this challenge, but we’ve got to start now.  We can’t wait.

So I want to make sure that every Californian knows — whether you’re NorCals, SoCal, here in the Central Valley — your country is going to be there for you when you need it this year. But we’re going to have to all work together in the years to come to make sure that we address the challenge and leave this incredible land embodied to our children and our grandchildren in at least as good shape as we found it.

So, thank you very much, everybody, for the great work that you guys do.  And I’ve already told the Governor as well as all your outstanding representatives here that our administration is going to stay on this and we are prepared to cooperate with local, state officials throughout.  And that’s not just in California, because we’re going to see some similar problems in places like Colorado, Nevada, some of the neighboring Western states, and so part of the conversation is also going to have to be a regional conversation.

But this is something that I’m very committed to.  We’re going to make sure to get it done, working together.  Thank you so much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END                5:08 P.M. PST

Full Text Obama Presidency January 23, 2014: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at US Conference of Mayors Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the Vice President at U.S. Conference of Mayors Reception

Source: WH, 1-23-14

East Room

5:30 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, welcome to the White House.  My name is Joe Biden.  I work for President Obama.  (Laughter.)  Best job I ever had.

Hey, folks, look, there’s a reason the President and I like talking to mayors.  You’re the one group of elected officials that get things done, in large part because you have no option but to get things done.  (Laughter.)  And also, most of the innovation is coming from you all.

Today, I got further evidence of that when I talked with a few of you about what we can do together on the jobs, skills and workforce development.  We promised, back in 2009, there would be — we’d be a strong partner with you, and I’m confident in saying that because of the man I’m about to introduce, we’ve kept that promise.

President Obama understands cities better than most American presidents have in American history.  He knows cities face unique challenges when it comes to building infrastructure and creating jobs, and that’s why he nominated a big city mayor, Anthony Foxx — he doesn’t have all the money in the world, but he’s ready to help.

And also, I’ve gotten a chance to work directly with so many of you during the Recovery Act.  The only reason it worked, the only reason there was less than 1 percent waste or fraud — including with our Republican friends who investigated — is because of you.  You made it work.  You’re used to getting things done on time — mostly under budget — and getting answers back to people immediately.  And it never ceases to amaze me the tough political decisions, you guys and women, you make every single day in doing your job — to save your neighborhoods, to rebuild and balance your budgets, and to bring jobs back to your communities.

So I’m honored to have you here, we’re honored to have you here.  And I’m really honored to introduce the best friend the cities have ever had in this White House, President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Please have a seat.

Well, welcome to the White House.  It is great to have you.  For those of you who have been here before, welcome back.  I see a lot of friends and a lot of familiar faces around the room, but I’ve also already had a chance to meet some newly elected mayors.  So to all of you, congratulations — and make sure you’re shoveling the snow.  (Laughter.)  Just a little piece of advice.  It’s been cold.

We’ve got more than 250 mayors here from more than 45 states and territories.  You represent about 40 million Americans.  And over the last five years, thanks in part to the partnerships that we’ve been able to forge with mayors in this room and across the country, we’ve accomplished some big things on behalf of the American people.

But you know as well as anybody that while our economy is growing stronger, and we are optimistic about growth this year and in subsequent years, we’ve got a lot more work to do to make sure that everybody has a chance to get ahead.  If they’re willing to work hard and take responsibility, they’ve got to be able to participate in that growth.  And every day, mayors are proving that you don’t have to wait for the gridlock to clear in Congress in order to make things happen.

Now, Mayor Greg Stanton in Phoenix and Mayor Ralph Becker in Salt Lake City have ended chronic homelessness among veterans.  (Applause.)  In San Antonio, Mayor Castro has launched an early childhood education program designed to reach more than 22,000 four year olds over the next eight years.  In Fresno, Mayor Ashley Swearengin is spearheading projects to develop her city’s downtown, including a high-speed rail station that’s going to help attract jobs and businesses to the Central Valley.  In Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter is helping young people reach higher during their summers by working with partners across the city to create thousands of summer jobs.  In Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn has gone, in his words, “all in,” helping his constituents get covered with quality, affordable health insurance.

So mayors from both parties are a part of the climate task force, helping to make sure that cities have what it takes to withstand changes that may be taking place in our atmosphere in the years to come.  More than a thousand mayors across America have signed agreements to cut dangerous carbon pollutions.  I want to work with Congress whenever and wherever I can, but the one thing I’m emphasizing to all my Cabinet members is we’re not going to wait.  Where Congress is debating things and hasn’t been able to pull the trigger on stuff, my administration is going to move forward and we’re going to do it in partnership with all of you.  I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.  And that’s all I need.  (Applause.)

Because with a pen I can take executive actions.  With a phone I can rally folks from around the country to help grow the economy and restore opportunity.  And that’s what today, hopefully, has been about.  You’ve met with members of the administration.  You’ve gotten to know each other, but also, hopefully, they’ve given you some insight into where we see the most promising programs, things that are working, best practices.  And we want to cooperate and coordinate with you as effectively as we can to make sure that whatever works is getting out there and hitting the streets and actually having an impact on people’s lives.  And, frankly, there are a lot of things that folks in this town could learn from all of you.

And I want to close by personally saying how much it means to me to have you here today.  As Joe mentioned, I know a little something about cities.  I got my professional career started as somebody working in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago.  But I also saw how hard work can transform communities block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.  And to see the resilience and the strength of people, and the incredible vibrancy that cities bring to not just those who live within the boundaries of cities but entire regions, that’s what you understand.  And I want to make sure that I’ve got your back in everything that you do.

So I want to say thank you to all of you for making sure that your constituents are well-served.  But, as a consequence, America is well-served.

END
5:38 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency October 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Health Care Law, on the Affordable Care Act at Faneuil Hall, Boston

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Governor Deval Patrick on the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 10-30-13

 

U.S. President Barack Obama

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on healthcare at Faneuil Hall in Boston on Oct. 30, 2013.

Faneuil Hall
Boston, Massachusetts

3:50 P.M. EDT

GOVERNOR PATRICK:  How are you?  Good afternoon, everybody.  (Applause.)  How’s Red Sox Nation this afternoon?  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, fellow citizens, I have the high honor of introducing to you the President of the United States.  (Applause.)  But, of course, you folks already know him.  (Laughter.)  So as the President is standing just offstage, I want to take my time here at the podium — (laughter) — to introduce all of you to him.

In this storied hall today, Mr. President, are the architects and advocates for health care reform in Massachusetts. (Applause.)  This gathering right here is the broad coalition — providers, payers, patients, consumers, policymakers, academics, business and labor, from both political parties, or no party at all — who came together to invent health care reform in Massachusetts and then, importantly, stuck together to refine it as we moved forward.  (Applause.)

You are the leaders who, when we learned a hard lesson or hit a wall, stuck with it and with each other because of the shared value that health care is a public good and that every citizen deserves access to quality, affordable care.  (Applause.)

Quality, affordable care accessible to all improves lives, and in many cases, saves lives.  It gives peace of mind and economic security to working families.  It increases productivity for large and small employers alike.  It creates jobs and contributes to the strength of the Massachusetts economy.  It is a powerful statement of who we are as a commonwealth.  (Applause.)

And by every reasonable measure, it has been a success for us here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  (Applause.)  How do we know?  Virtually, every resident in the commonwealth is insured today.  (Applause.)  More private companies offer insurance to their employees than ever before.  Over 90 percent of our residents have a primary care physician.  Preventive care is up and health disparities are down.  (Applause.)  Most important of all, on a whole range of measures, we are healthier both physically and mentally.

Over all these years, expansion itself has added only about 1 percent of state spending to our budget.  And thanks to the collective, continued hard work of this coalition, premiums are finally easing up.  Premium base rates were increasing over 16 percent just a few years ago.  Today, increases average less than 2 percent.  (Applause.)

And thanks to the President, America can look forward to the successes that Massachusetts has experienced these last seven years.  (Applause.)

The truth is policy only matters when and where it touches people.  I know this policy matters because I’ve met people all across the commonwealth, in every walk of life, whose lives have been improved or saved because of the care our reforms made possible.  A couple of them are here today.

Laura Ferreira — where are you, Laura?  There you are.  Owns her own hair salon and is responsible for providing health insurance to her family of five, including her son, Mason, who’s right here with her.  Mason has a rare genetic condition.  Laura is able to afford his medicine because they found coverage through our Connecter, our version of the ACA marketplace.  This policy matters.  (Applause.)

David Gilloran works as a waiter.  Where are you David?  There you are.  Thank you for being here.  Soon after getting coverage through the Connector, David was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  His treatment was covered, and he is back to his old life and swimming for exercise.  God bless you, David.  (Applause.)

Brian Thurber left his law firm job to become an entrepreneur in Massachusetts.  Brian, where are you?  There he is.  Because he was able to access quality insurance directly through the Connector, he is chasing his entrepreneurial dreams and on his way to becoming a creator of jobs for others without  — being exposed to a health emergency along the way.  Keep going.  Good luck to you.  (Applause.)

Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts people don’t fear going bankrupt from medical bills, or being thrown off their insurance if they get really sick, or being declared ineligible for insurance because they were seriously ill sometime in the past.

If policy matters where it touches people, Mr. President, this policy matters a lot.  Health care reform is working for the people of Massachusetts, and it will work for the people of America.  (Applause.)

My Republican predecessor signed the legislation to expand health care reform in Massachusetts right here in this room, on this very stage.  His chief legislative partner was the Democratic state senator, Robert Travaglini, who was here then and is here today.  Where are you, Trav?  Thank you.  (Applause.)

So was our beloved Ted Kennedy.  So were many of the members of the coalition who are here again today.  And they have worked right alongside my team and me these last seven years to refine and improve the means while staying true to the ends.  I am proud of what we and they have accomplished, and I think they’re proud, too, and ought to be.  (Applause.)

But our launch seven years ago was not flawless.  (Laughter.)  We asked an IT staffer who has been at our Connector since the beginning what the start of implementing reform was like.  And this is what he said, and I’m quoting:  “We didn’t have a complicated eligibility process back then, but we did have outages caused by traffic peaks.  We experienced some issues with data mapping of plan detail that carriers called us on.  Our provider searches were not good, and the website was a constant work in progress over the first few years.  But other than that, it was smooth.”  (Laughter.)

Any of this sound familiar, Mr. President?

So we started out with a website that needed work.  We had a lot of people with a lot of reasonable questions and not a good enough way to get them the answers.  But people were patient, we had good leadership, and that same coalition stuck with it and with us to work through the fixes, tech surge and all.  Why?  Why?  Because health reform in Massachusetts, like the Affordable Care Act, is not a website.  It’s a values statement.  (Applause.)  It’s about insuring people against a medical catastrophe.  It’s about being our brothers’ and our sisters’ keeper by helping others help themselves.

The website glitches are inconvenient and annoying.  They must be fixed and I am confident they will be.  But I hope you know, Mr. President, that the same folks who pretend to be outraged about the website not working didn’t want the ACA to work in the first place.  (Applause.)  The urgency of fixing what’s not working is, as we all know, about the American people who need simple, reliable and convenient access to information about coverage — not about silencing critics who will never be silenced.

You and the Congress looked to Massachusetts, Mr. President, as a model for how to insure working people, and through that, how to help them lead better, more productive lives.  As you turn to the vital work of making that federal IT system work, we also want to be a model for how to keep your eye on the prize, and how, working together, you put people first.  (Applause.)  The people here, all in this coalition, totally get that.

So, Mr. President, welcome to the capital of Red Sox Nation. (Applause.)  And welcome, also, to the future of affordable, accessible health care for everybody.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Boston!  (Applause.)  It’s good to be back in Boston.  (Applause.)  It’s good to be back in Boston because one of America’s best governors introduced me — Deval Patrick.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

It’s good to see Congressman Bill Keating here.  Give Bill a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  I want to praise somebody who’s not here — I just left him — but he wears his heart on his sleeve.  He loves this city so much, and it shows in what he’s been doing for years now — one of America’s best mayors, Tom Menino.  (Applause.)

And it’s good to see all of you.  I was just at the airport — Deval was kind enough to meet me, along with Mayor Menino.  And Mayor Menino went back to city hall to work so he could wrap up in time for the first pitch.  I understand that.  (Laughter.) I am well aware that a presidential visit is not the biggest thing going on today in Boston.  (Laughter and applause.)  I understand that.  I tried to grow a beard, but Michelle, she wasn’t having it.  (Laughter.)

I am also old enough to remember a time when the Red Sox were not in the World Series three times in 10 years.  (Laughter.)  But I know the chance to win one at home for the first time since 1918 is a pretty special thing.  (Applause.)  So I promise we will be done here in time — (laughter) — for everybody to head over to Fenway and maybe see Big Papi blast another homer.  (Applause.)

And maybe the other Sox will do better next year.  (Laughter.)  You can hope.  You can dream.  (Laughter.)

The reason I’m here, though, is because this is the hall where, seven years ago, Democrats and Republicans came together to make health reform a reality for the people of Massachusetts. It’s where then-Governor Mitt Romney, Democratic legislators, Senator Ted Kennedy, many of the folks who are here today joined forces to connect the progressive vision of health care for all with some ideas about markets and competition that had long been championed by conservatives.

And as Deval just said, it worked.  (Applause.)  It worked. Health reform –

PROTESTORS:  Mr. President — don’t punish me.  For our generation, stop the pipeline!  Mr. President –

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  We’re talking about health care today, but we will –

PROTESTORS:  Mr. President –

AUDIENCE:  Booo –

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no, it’s okay.  That is the wrong rally.  (Laughter and applause.)  We had the climate change rally back in the summer.  (Laughter.)  This is the health care rally. (Applause.)

So health care reform in this state was a success.  That doesn’t mean it was perfect right away.  There were early problems to solve.  There were changes that had to be made.  Anybody here who was involved in it can tell you that.  As Deval just said, enrollment was extremely slow.  Within a month, only about a hundred people had signed up — a hundred.  But then 2,000 had signed up, and then a few more thousand after that.  And by the end of the year, 36,000 people had signed up.

And the community all came together.  You even had the Red Sox help enlist people to get them covered.  And pretty soon, the number of young uninsured people had plummeted.  When recession struck, the financial security of health care sheltered families from deeper hardship.  And today, there is nearly universal coverage in Massachusetts, and the vast majority of its citizens are happy with their coverage.  (Applause.)

And by the way, all the parade of horribles, the worst predictions about health care reform in Massachusetts never came true.  They’re the same arguments that you’re hearing now.  Businesses didn’t stop covering workers; the share of employers who offered insurance increased.  People didn’t get left behind; racial disparities decreased.  Care didn’t become unaffordable; costs tracked what was happening in other places that wasn’t covering everybody.

Now, Mitt Romney and I ran a long and spirited campaign against one another, but I’ve always believed that when he was governor here in Massachusetts, he did the right thing on health care.  And then Deval did the right thing by picking up the torch and working to make the law work even better.  And it’s because you guys had a proven model that we built the Affordable Care Act on this template of proven, bipartisan success.  Your law was the model for the nation’s law.  (Applause.)

So let’s look at what’s happened.  Today, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to abide by some of the strongest consumer protections this country has ever known — a true Patient’s Bill of Rights.  (Applause.)  No more discriminating against kids with preexisting conditions.  (Applause.)  No more dropping your policy when you get sick and need it most.  (Applause.)  No more lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits.  (Applause.)  Most plans now have to cover free preventive care like mammograms and birth control.  (Applause.)  Young people can stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.  All of this is in place right now.  It is working right now.  (Applause.)

Now, the last element of this began on October 1st.  It’s when the Affordable Care Act created a new marketplace for quality, private insurance plans for the 15 percent or so of Americans who don’t have health care, and for the 5 percent of Americans who have to buy it on their own and they’re not part of a group, which means they don’t get as good a deal.

And this new marketplace was built on the Massachusetts model.  It allows these Americans who have been locked out to get a better deal from insurers — they’re pooling their purchasing power as one big group.  And insurers want their business, which means they give them a better deal, and they compete for that business.  And as a result, insurers in the marketplace, they can’t use your medical history to charge you more.  If you’ve been sick, you finally have the same chance to buy quality, affordable health care as everybody else.

A lot of people will qualify for new tax credits under this law that will bring down costs even further, so that if you lose your job, or you start a new business, or you’re self-employed, or you’re a young person trying several jobs until you find that one that sticks, you’re going to be able to be insured — insurance that goes with you and gives you freedom to pursue whatever you want, without fear that accident or illness will derail your dreams.

Now, this marketplace is open now.  Insurance companies are competing for that business.  The deal is good; the prices are low.  But, let’s face it, we’ve had a problem.  The website hasn’t worked the way it’s supposed to over these last couple of weeks.  And as a consequence, a lot of people haven’t had a chance to see just how good the prices for quality health insurance through these marketplaces really are.

Now, ultimately, this website, healthcare.gov, will be the easiest way to shop for and buy these new plans, because you can see all these plans right next to each other and compare prices and see what kind of coverage it provides.  But, look, there’s no denying it, right now, the website is too slow, too many people have gotten stuck.  And I am not happy about it.  And neither are a lot of Americans who need health care, and they’re trying to figure out how they can sign up as quickly as possible.  So there’s no excuse for it.  And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP.  We are working overtime to improve it every day.  (Applause.)  Every day.

And more people are successfully buying these new plans online than they were a couple of weeks ago, and I expect more people will be able to buy conveniently online every single day as we move forward.  We’re going to get these problems resolved.

Now, in the meantime, you can still apply for coverage over the phone, or by mail, or in person, because those plans are waiting and you’re still able to get the kind of affordable, reliable health insurance that’s been out of reach for too many people for too long.

So I am old enough to remember when there was not such a thing as a website.  (Laughter.)  I know that’s shocking to people.  (Laughter.)  But the point is I’m confident these marketplaces will work, because Massachusetts has shown that the model works and we know what’s being offered by these insurers.  (Applause.)  We know it’s going to work.

And so far, choice and competition in the new national marketplaces have helped keep costs lower than even we projected. In fact, nearly half of all single, uninsured 18-to-34-year-olds may be able to buy insurance for 50 bucks a month or less.  Less than your cellphone bill, less than your cable bill.  (Applause.) And one study shows that nearly 6 in 10 uninsured Americans may find coverage for 100 bucks a month or less, even if they’re older than 34.

And, frankly, if every governor was working as hard as Deval, or Governor O’Malley in Maryland, or Governor Cuomo in New York, to make this law work for their citizens, as opposed to thinking politically, about 8 in 10 Americans would be getting health insurance for less than 100 bucks a month.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, it’s not just in Massachusetts.  Look at Kentucky.  Governor Steve Beshear, who’s a Democrat, is like a man possessed with helping more people get covered.  He thinks it’s the right thing to do.  Keep in mind I did not win in Kentucky.  (Laughter.)  But there are a lot of uninsured people in Kentucky, and they’re signing up.

Oregon has covered 10 percent of its uninsured citizens already because of the Affordable Care Act.  Ten percent of the uninsured have already gotten coverage.  (Applause.)

Arkansas — I didn’t win that state either — (laughter) — has covered almost 14 percent of its uninsured already.  (Applause.)  That’s already happened.

And you’ve got some Republican governors, like Governor Kasich of Ohio, who’ve put politics aside and they’re expanding Medicaid through this law to cover millions of people.

Now, unfortunately, there are others that are so locked in to the politics of this thing that they won’t lift a finger to help their own people, and that’s leaving millions of Americans uninsured unnecessarily.  That’s a shame.  Because if they put as much energy into making this law work as they do in attacking the law, Americans would be better off.  (Applause.)  Americans would be better off.

So that’s the Affordable Care Act:  Better protections for Americans with insurance; a new marketplace for Americans without insurance; new tax credits to help folks afford it; more choice, more competition; real health care security not just for the uninsured or underinsured, but for all of us — because we pay more in premiums and taxes when Americans without good insurance visit the emergency room.  (Applause.)  We get taxed.

And since we all benefit, there are parts of this law that also require everybody to contribute, that require everybody to take some measure of responsibility.  So, to help pay for the law, the wealthiest Americans –- families who make more than $250,000 a year –- they’ve got to pay a little bit more.  The most expensive employer health insurance plans no longer qualify for unlimited tax breaks.  Some folks aren’t happy about that, but it’s the right thing to do.

Just like in Massachusetts, most people who can afford health insurance have to take responsibility to buy health insurance, or pay a penalty.  And employers with more than 50 employees are required to either provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty — again, because they shouldn’t just dump off those costs onto the rest of us.  Everybody has got some responsibilities.

Now, it is also true that some Americans who have health insurance plans that they bought on their own through the old individual market are getting notices from their insurance companies suggesting that somehow, because of the Affordable Care Act, they may be losing their existing health insurance plan.  This has been the latest flurry in the news.  Because there’s been a lot of confusion and misinformation about this, I want to explain just what’s going on.

One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured, but also the underinsured.  And there are a number of Americans –- fewer than 5 percent of Americans -– who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.  Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or use minor preexisting conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy.  So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the worst of these plans routinely dropped thousands of Americans every single year.  And on average, premiums for folks who stayed in their plans for more than a year shot up about 15 percent a year.  This wasn’t just bad for those folks who had these policies, it was bad for all of us — because, again, when tragedy strikes and folks can’t pay their medical bills, everybody else picks up the tab.

Now, if you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law and you really liked that plan, you’re able to keep it.  That’s what I said when I was running for office.  That was part of the promise we made.  But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is you’ve got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage  — because that, too, was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning.

And today, that promise means that every plan in the marketplace covers a core set of minimum benefits, like maternity care, and preventive care, and mental health care, and prescription drug benefits, and hospitalization.  And they can’t use allergies or pregnancy or a sports injury or the fact that you’re a woman to charge you more.  They can’t do that anymore.  (Applause.)  They can’t do that anymore.

If you couldn’t afford coverage because your child had asthma, well, he’s now covered.  If you’re one of the 45 million Americans with a mental illness, you’re now covered.  If you’re a young couple expecting a baby, you’re covered.  You’re safer.  The system is more secure for you and it’s more secure for everybody.

So if you’re getting one of these letters, just shop around in the new marketplace.  That’s what it’s for.  Because of the tax credits we’re offering, and the competition –

PROTESTOR:  Mr. President, ban the Keystone Pipeline!  For our generation, you need to do this!

THE PRESIDENT:  Because of the tax credits that we’re offering and the competition between insurers, most people are going to be able to get better, comprehensive health care plans for the same price or even cheaper than projected.  You’re going to get a better deal.

Now, there’s a fraction of Americans with higher incomes who will pay more on the front end for better insurance with better benefits and protections like the Patient’s Bill of Rights.  And that will actually save them from financial ruin if they get sick.  But nobody is losing their right to health care coverage. And no insurance company will ever be able to deny you coverage, or drop you as a customer altogether.  Those days are over.  And that’s the truth.  (Applause.)  That is the truth.

So for people without health insurance, they’re finally going to be able to get it.  For the vast majority of people who have health insurance that works, you can keep it.  For the fewer than 5 percent of Americans who buy insurance on your own, you will be getting a better deal.

So anyone peddling the notion that insurers are cancelling people’s plan without mentioning that almost all the insurers are encouraging people to join better plans with the same carrier, and stronger benefits and stronger protections, while others will be able to get better plans with new carriers through the marketplace, and that many will get new help to pay for these better plans and make them actually cheaper — if you leave that stuff out, you’re being grossly misleading, to say the least.  (Applause.)

But, frankly, look, you saw this in Massachusetts — this is one of the challenges of health care form.  Health care is complicated and it’s very personal, and it’s easy to scare folks. And it’s no surprise that some of the same folks trying to scare people now are the same folks who’ve been trying to sink the Affordable Care Act from the beginning.  (Applause.)  And frankly, I don’t understand it.  Providing people with health care, that should be a no-brainer.  (Applause.)  Giving people a chance to get health care should be a no-brainer.  (Applause.)

And I’ve said before, if folks had actually good ideas, better ideas than what’s happening in Massachusetts or what we’ve proposed for providing people with health insurance, I’d be happy to listen.  But that’s not what’s happening.  And anyone defending the remnants of the old, broken system as if it was working for people, anybody who thinks we shouldn’t finish the job of making the health care system work for everybody -– especially when these folks offer no plan for the uninsured or the underinsured, or folks who lose their insurance each year — those folks should have to explain themselves.  (Applause.)

Because I don’t think we should go back to discriminating against kids with preexisting conditions.  (Applause.)  I don’t think we should go back to dropping coverage for people when they get sick, or because they make a mistake on their application.  (Applause.)  I don’t think we should go back to the daily cruelties and indignities and constant insecurity of a broken health care system.  And I’m confident most Americans agree with me.  (Applause.)

So, yes, this is hard, because the health care system is a big system, and it’s complicated.  And if it was hard doing it just in one state, it’s harder to do it in all 50 states — especially when the governors of a bunch of states and half of the Congress aren’t trying to help.  Yes, it’s hard.  But it’s worth it.  (Applause.)  It is the right thing to do, and we’re going to keep moving forward.  (Applause.)  We are going to keep working to improve the law, just like you did here in Massachusetts.  (Applause.)

We are just going to keep on working at it.  We’re going to grind it out, just like you did here in Massachusetts — and, by the way, just like we did when the prescription drug program for seniors known as Medicare Part D was passed by a Republican President a decade ago.  That health care law had some early challenges as well.  There were even problems with the website.  (Laughter.)  And Democrats weren’t happy with a lot of the aspects of the law because, in part, it added hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, it wasn’t paid for — unlike the Affordable Care Act, which will actually help lower the deficit.  (Applause.)

But, you know what, once it was the law, everybody pitched in to try to make it work.  Democrats weren’t about to punish millions of seniors just to try to make a point or settle a score.  So Democrats worked with Republicans to make it work.  And I’m proud of Democrats for having done that.  It was the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  Because now, about 90 percent of seniors like what they have.  They’ve gotten a better deal.

Both parties working together to get the job done –- that’s what we need in Washington right now.  (Applause.)  That’s what we need in Washington right now.

You know, if Republicans in Congress were as eager to help Americans get covered as some Republican governors have shown themselves to be, we’d make a lot of progress.  I’m not asking them to agree with me on everything, but if they’d work with us like Mitt Romney did, working with Democrats in Massachusetts, or like Ted Kennedy often did with Republicans in Congress, including on the prescription drug bill, we’d be a lot further along.  (Applause.)

So the point is, we may have political disagreements — we do, deep ones.  In some cases, we’ve got fundamentally different visions about where we should take the country.  But the people who elect us to serve, they shouldn’t pay the price for those disagreements.  Most Americans don’t see things through a political lens or an ideological lens.  This debate has never been about right or left.  It’s been about the helplessness that a parent feels when she can’t cover a sick child, or the impossible choices a small business faces between covering his employees or keeping his doors open.

I want to give you just — I want to close with an example. A person named Alan Schaeffer, from Prattsburgh, New York, and he’s got a story to tell about sacrifice, about giving up his own health care to save the woman he loves.  So Alan wrote to me last week, and he told me his story.

Four years ago, his wife, Jan, who happens to be a nurse, was struck with cancer, and she had to stop working.  And then halfway through her chemo, her employer dropped coverage for both of them.  And Alan is self-employed; he’s got an antique business.  So he had to make sure his wife had coverage, obviously, in the middle of cancer treatments, so he went without insurance.

Now, the great news is, today, Jan is cancer-free.  She’s on Medicare, but Alan’s been uninsured ever since.  Until last week — (applause) — when he sat down at a computer and — I’m sure after multiple tries — (laughter) — signed up for a new plan under the Affordable Care Act, coverage that can never be taken away if he gets sick.  (Applause.)

So I just want to read you what he said in this letter.  He says, “I’ve got to tell you I’ve never been so happy to pay a bill in my entire life.”  (Laughter.)  “When you don’t have insurance at my age, [it can] really feel like a time bomb waiting to go off.  The sense of relief from knowing I can live out my days longer and healthier, that’s just a tremendous weight off my shoulders.”

So two days later, Alan goes over to his buddy Bill’s house. He sits Bill down, and his wife, Diana, at their computer.  And after several tries — (laughter) — Alan helped lift that weight from their shoulders by helping them to sign up for a new plan also.  And compared to their current plan, it costs less than half as much and covers more.

See, that’s why we committed ourselves to this cause — for Alan, and Jan; for Bill, Diana.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Annie.

THE PRESIDENT:  For Annie.  For anyone who wrote letters, and shared stories, and knocked on doors because they believed what could happen here in Massachusetts could happen all across the country.  (Applause.)  And for them, and for you, we are going to see this through.  (Applause.)  We’re going to see this through.  (Applause.)  We are going to see this through.  (Applause.)

This hall is home to some of the earliest debates over the nature of our government, the appropriate size, the appropriate role of government.  And those debates continue today, and that’s healthy.  They’re debates about the role of the individual and society, and our rugged individualism, and our sense of self-reliance, our devotion to the kind of freedoms whose first shot rang out not far from here.  But they are also debates tempered by a recognition that we’re all in this together, and that when hardship strikes — and it could strike any of us at any moment  — we’re there for one another; and that as a country, we can accomplish great things that we can’t accomplish alone.  (Applause.)  We believe that.  We believe that.  (Applause.)

And those sentiments are expressed in a painting right here in this very hall:  “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”  That’s the value statement Deval was talking about.  That’s what health care reform is about.  That’s what America is about.  We are in this together, and we are going to see it through.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

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